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The business of bean to bar: Making chocolate straight from the source

There's something that may surprise all the chocolate lovers out there, and there's one chocolatier in Rockland that's making the sweet treat straight from the source.

ROCKPORT (NEWS CENTER Maine) — There’s something that may surprise all the chocolate lovers out there, and there’s one chocolatier in Rockland that’s making the sweet treat straight from the source.

The process is called, bean to bar.

“This is a dried cocoa pod," explains Kate McAleer. "This is the fruit of the cocoa tree.”

Yes. Chocolate comes from a fruit that grows on a tree.

Kate McAleer is the founder of Bixby and Company. She started making chocolate bars about seven years ago. Now, she’s taking on something more challenging.

“This is like, full on chocolate workout.”

She makes chocolate straight from the beans of the fruit from the countries where it grows, like Haiti and Dominican Republic.

It all happens inside a former Rockland ice plant.

The cocoa beans arrive in potato sack like bags.

McAleer scoops them out and then sorts through them all by hand for any faulty pieces. After a quick weight check, the beans are ready to roast.

Scoop by scoop McAleer transfers every bean to the roaster and sets the timer. The drum spins, circling the heat around the beans.

Afterwards, it’s on to the next step in the process.

"There’s cold air circulating around the beans to cool them.”

Then she climbs up a ladder to reach the top of the next machine, which is like a giant coffee bean grinder. A plastic bucket collects all the pieces.

“There’s still some husk in here that I want to get rid of.”

So the crushed up beans, or nib, go through the machine once more and then into another machine that spins 'round and 'round.

Sugar is later added to sweeten the pot. Once it’s all in liquid form, the chocolate it poured into the molds, and once it hardens you have your classic chocolate bars.

The mold’s design, by the way, is from an old family bookplate which is a marker used to distinguish which books belong to you.

The octopus signifies accumulating knowledge.

Nutty, fruity, or dark, the flavors all depend on where the bean comes from.

It’s a labor of love for McAleer who says the craft of going from bean to bar takes about a week.

“It’s just really exciting and very Willy Wonka-esque but on a kind of craft beer style.”

At One Sea Street Place, you can also sample the cocoa plant's juice.

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